Fikile Mbalula. Picture: GCIS
Fikile Mbalula. Picture: GCIS

My lovely dad used to call this the in-between time. It’s a good description for this period between Christmas and New Year: a waiting time, a still time, a time between time.

There’s a sense of expectation in this short time, a sort of holding of breath as we anticipate the end of something stale and stagnant, the old year. And the start of something new and exciting, the New Year. Or at least a little new. It’s a hopeful time.

Of course, the New Year kicks in with the ferocity of a mule within hours, days, and everyone just carries on carrying on and it all goes back to normal, or a version of new normal, the New Year normal, and we breathe out and lower our expectations and it all goes back on the merry-go-round of life. 2018 will come and go, as quickly as 2017 did, and as quickly as 2019 will.

As children, we rarely went on summer holidays like white people went on holiday. They went to the seaside for languid beach holidays in which they swam in the sea or lay on the sand in the sun, tanning themselves to look more like us — darker.

We went to stay with relatives in Durban because we couldn’t stay in hotels because they were reserved for white people. We went to the beach city Durban where we couldn’t go on the beach because we were too tanned. Where we couldn’t swim in the sea, because we couldn’t swim since there were no municipal swimming pools in our designated Indian neigbourhoods. It was a time before people built their own residential swimming pools, mostly because most (almost all) people couldn’t afford it.

Also, it would have seemed churlish for some people to have a show-off pool — which they’d have to share with their neighbours anyway.

That (a private swimming pool) was something that came with a host of problems.

Mr Patel, the businessman who lived next to the ML Sultan Mosque on the banks of the Ladysmith river, whose son had been to university in England and came home knowing how to, and wanting to, swim, built a swimming pool in his back yard.

And Mrs Patel, Zubby as she liked to be called, would throw back the long scarf that covered her head and shoulders and talk about the problems attached to owning the only swimming pool in the neighbourhood; even in the town.

She spoke (behind a hand, in a lowered voice) of privacy issues, how she could never leave her bedroom curtains open. Her bedroom door walked out onto the pool area.

Apparently every child within a 10km radius felt entitled to come by to swim or paddle in the pool.

Often brought by their parents. Zubby complained that she was expected to feed the hordes even while she was forced to take on a babysitting role; to make sure that none of the little ones drowned. Adult supervision was crucial at all times.

A pool? Too much trouble she would mutter.

Of course it would be a gross generalisation, exaggeration even, to suggest that every white family went on expensive holidays, that they hired beach cottages or booked into hotels. Of course many white people, too, went on budget holidays to relatives and bunked in with discomfort. But I suppose, if they’d been able to afford it, they could have, whereas we could afford it but couldn’t because we were darkies in the time of apartheid.

We spent holidays with aunts and uncles and cousins, which was huge fun for us children, and not so much fun for the grownups sharing the very limited spaces in our relatives’ small homes.

My mother disliked staying with family, she didn’t ever want to be indebted to anyone. She was peculiar that way, my mother. She hated invading other people’s space, just as she hated having her space invaded.

She behaved very oddly when in other people’s homes. She relinquished all choice and became pliant as she fit in with the rules, needs and habits of the household she was in.

It was strange behaviour that affected us all. We were not allowed to just be our child-like selves and had to adapt like chameleons to the environment we were in.

We had to take instruction from our aunt or uncle, let our cousins have first go at whatever game we were playing. Heaven forbid we should make a noise and disturb the peace in the house we were staying in.

I’ve spent years in therapy learning how to be myself in other people’s space, to make my own needs heard, to be respectful of other people’s space without stripping out every aspect of myself trying to fit in; trying to make myself invisible so as not to offend.

And so my idea of a perfect holiday used to be to escape to a neutral place like a hotel where I was my own boss, where I could make my own tourism decisions, where I had control of the remote control and the dinner schedule.

Of course, as someone said to me this holiday — talking about someone like the old me — her unwelcoming sister would have to enjoy herself in splendid isolation, in splendid loneliness.

Perhaps that was what the Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula was doing when he went to Dubai. Perhaps he was seeking solitude, wanting to be far from the madding crowd.

But, silly man that he is, he felt the need to brag about his splendid isolation in a land far, far away, a land forever tarnished as the capital of state capture, Dubai; the land that apparently is where President Jacob Zuma has a home that he will flee to when his Mugabe-like-ousting hour comes.

Here is the minister’s tweet:

RSA Minister of Police@MbululaFikile

Merry Christmas to you all… festive season greetings to you all bunch of winners…

8.31AM 25 Dec 17 Dubai, United Arab

Minister Fikile Mbalula's tweet from DubaI. Picture: TWITTER
Minister Fikile Mbalula's tweet from DubaI. Picture: TWITTER

I don’t think he meant to broadcast the fact that he was in the Arab Emirates… At least I don’t think he meant to …

Immediately, inferences were made, conclusions drawn, suspicions raised …

Who had paid for the trip?

Were the Guptas involved, somehow?

Had he been captured? Recaptured?

Why Dubai?

The Minister killed the tweet. But too late. Screen shots were posted, re-tweeted.

Merry Christmas became a Kerrie (en rys) Christmas became a Blerrie Christmas…

Ag, shame man.